Mystery paragliders put Silverstone on alert for drop-in protests at British Grand Prix

Security chiefs fear low-flyers were practice runs for race day

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 7:40 am
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 7:56 am
Air space over Silverstone will be tightly controlled for Sunday's British GP

Silverstone security chiefs fear powered paragliders flying over South Northamptonshire recently were rehearsing a drop-in protest at Sunday's British Grand Prix.

Police have issued various appeals to help identify paramotor pilots spotted flying low around the racetrack.

But a Greenpeace stunt which nearly ended in tragedy during the Euro 2020 football championships sparked concerns of something similar being planned for this weekend's big event.

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Several people were injured when a protester dropped in ahead of the France-Germany Euro 2020 clash

Detective Chief Inspector Johnny Campbell warned: “If there are individuals out there considering flying in the area of Silverstone Circuit this weekend, I would strongly urge them to reconsider.

“We have seen recently at the European Football Championships how things can go horribly wrong and people can get hurt. We do not want this to happen here."

Drones are also banned in the area throughout the F1 weekend and specialist detection equipment will quickly identify and stop anybody attempting to fly a drone.

DCI Campbell added: “During the British Grand Prix, Silverstone essentially becomes an extremely busy airport with TV helicopters, military air traffic and commercial flights frequently using the airspace.

"This, coupled with Formula 1 cars going around the track at speeds of over 200mph, makes for an exceptionally dangerous environment for this kind of activity. Please do not put yourself or others at risk.

“Significant resource on the ground, in the air, and in technical capabilities, has been put in place to spot, monitor and detain any violations of air space during this event.”

Several people were treated in hospital for injuries after a protestor who parachuted into the stadium before France's Euro 2020 victory over Germany in Munich.

Debris fell onto the pitch and into the stands when the parachutist got tangled in wires carrying an overhead camera.

France boss Didier Deschamps was seen ducking out of the way of a large piece of equipment near the dugout.

The activist from Greenpeace had the words "Kick out oil Greenpeace" written on his parachute.

Mark Asquith, chair of the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, said: “At this stage, there is no way of knowing whether the flights in the Silverstone area were rehearsals for a protest at the Grand Prix, or simply a small number of innocent pilots misguidedly having fun.

“The BHPA does not welcome the use of paramotors in protest stunts.

"We have fought long and hard to obtain our freedoms to fly and such protests put these freedoms at risk.

"Similarly, recreational pilots engaging in low flying might now realise the concerns that they unintentionally raise. These pilots also put at risk our freedoms to fly.”